Japan clamps down on cat cafés… wait, what?

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Here's a good rule of thumb: If you can imagine it, it exists in Japan.

While American coffeehouses of a certain bohemian stripe might have a resident cat lounging on the bookshelf or on mouse patrol in the back, Tokyo apparently has fully-fledged cat cafés where patrons can enjoy the catmaraderie (forgive me) of up to dozens of cats while they sip their joe.

Visitors to Kawase's cafe pay about 1,000 yen ($12) an hour to play with any of her 24 cats, who dart around the room chasing toys or sleep in baskets set on tables. Drinks are priced from around 300 yen each.

Sounds lovely right? But in a roundabout effort to curb illegal animal sales, a new change in the law will restrict the times that cats can be displayed, which has implications for the post-work cat-rush that in Tokyo is apparently an actual economic factor.

At most such establishments, it's the post-work rush that brings in the most cash, with tired and harried professionals dropping by on their way home to pet and play with the animals as a way of relieving stress.

According to cat café owner Hiromi Kawase in this adorable quote, restricting the hours of feline operation would have a definite negative effect on her business.

"Everybody knows cats are really happy in the evening, with their big, cute eyes. So I just can't understand why the people at the top are ignoring this. It's really strange."

There's been no further word from the Ministry of Kitten Affairs. But relax — Japan is still a playground of imagination. The legal changes will only restrict petting hours to between 8 AM and 8 PM. The office crowd may have to rush, but for the lightly employed among us, that's a solid 12 hours of kitten time per diem. I just hope they have wi-fi.